augury doggerel

Wednesday, December 29, 2004


The net fills with invisible bodies and the "death toll" hit counter "mounts." A top link promises a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model spectacularly wet and undrowned, while a little blond boy snapped from the vast dark sea looks for his vacationing parents.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Dirk and Drublie Dayis

William Dunbar is my friend today.
In to thir dirk and drublie dayis,
Quhone sabill all the hevin arrayis
    With mystie vapouris, cluddis, and skyis,
    Nature all curage me denyis
Off sangis, ballattis, and of playis.

Quhone that the nycht dois lenthin houris,
With wind, with haill, and havy schouris,
    My dule spreit dois lurk for schoir,
    My hairt for languor dois forloir
For laik of symmer with his flouris.

I walk, I turne, sleip may I nocht,
I vexit am with havie thocht;
    This warld all ouir I cast about,
    And ay the mair I am in dout,
The mair that I remeid have socht.

I am assayit on everie syde:
Dispair sayis ay, "In tyme provyde
    And get sum thing quhairon to leif,
    Or with grit trouble and mischeif
Thow sall in to this court abyd."

Than Patience sayis, "Be not agast:
Hald Hoip and Treuthe within the fast,
    And lat Fortoun wink furthe hir rage,
    Quhome that no rasoun may assuage,
Quhill that hir glas be run and past."

And Prudence in my eir sayis ay,
"Quhy wald thow hald that will away?
    Or craif that thow may have no space,
    Thow tending to ane uther place,
A journay going everie day?"

And than sayis Age, "My freind, cum neir,
And be not strange, I the requeir:
    Cum, brodir, by the hand me tak,
    Remember thow hes compt to mak
Off all thi tyme thow spendit heir."

Syne Deid castis upe his yettis wyd,
Saying, "Thir oppin sall the abyd;
    Albeid that thow wer never sa stout,
    Undir this lyntall sall thow lowt:
Thair is nane uther way besyde."

For feir of this all day I drowp;
No gold in kist, nor wyne in cowp,
    No ladeis bewtie, nor luiffis blys,
    May lat me to remember this,
How glaid that ever I dyne or sowp.

Yit, quhone the nycht begynnis to schort,
It dois my spreit sum pairt confort,
    Off thocht oppressit with the schowris.
    Cum, lustie symmer! with thi flowris,
That I may leif in sum disport.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Apache Dance

On Christmas Eve the full moon has a halo, double halo, in fast clouds over town. On Christmas Day the same moon in plain daylight balances exactly on the tip of a spire. There is the sun, too, here on Christmas Day, but not enough for a cat, and it's gone before I can get out.

Downtown a woman in a wedding dress has her picture taken at the statue of Neptune. She poses with some men, one of whom she must have married somewhere around here, and a backup woman and naked Neptune. This and liquor stores are all that happens out here on Christmas Day.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Birds of Calm

There's cold rain this Christmas, slick weather. (This is what the goblins do when snow is thick and you decide to put a snowboard under the tree.)

But walk. This is my last escape, to a cafe in town, before the coursing of the Christmas meal begins at Babcia's.

I give a smoke to a fishmonger on this double-busy fish Friday, watch his fish, think of all the fish in the sea, think of the Chinese brother who could swallow the sea.

Then on to where fishmongers don't go, in out of the rain to sip coffee where silken girls bring sherbet to travelers. A mother comes in with a pretty babe all burning bright. I watch the pigeons through the window and drink something African, I think she said. But to Babcia's and the jellied fish. I'll be eel.

"Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?" asked Scrooge.

"There is. My own."

This is one reason I am not so very keen to eat at other folks'.

Bad or Good

It's almost Christmas and I've been to shopping malls -- I'm still in a shopping mall, all of Poland is in a mall -- and I've used a credit card for the first time in months and months. Too many recorded bells. Too many pop carols sung by pop singers. I hear a young Michael Jackson sing "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" (a sight that could disturb a sensitive lad). Burl Ives wants people to whom bumbles mean nothing to have a "Holly Jolly Christmas." A skinny mall Santa who may also be a security guard watches me watch him.

I will remember my Ali Babas and shaggy ponies.

Of Larks

At the Christmas concert, the conductor is a thousand-year-old man, the mistress of ceremonies is his old wife, the players are children in high single or low double digits, and the audience are parents and even younger children. The first violinist, leader, concertmaster, is ten. She shakes hands with the conductor and--you can see it filter through the stage lights--some of him rubs off. When they play, is that the essence of Chinese orchestra in the accidence of Bach in Poland? Or the other way around?

The reason I'm here stands in the choir there, just there, in the middle, so serious, singing traditional carols. A boy alto pales and wobbles and is led to a chair. To be so serious, so frightened of these larks.

So bring on the dancing girls. To recorded Hawaiian music, little girls in floral bikini tops and chiffon skirts dance around littler girls dressed as flowers. Then an adult opera singer to enact something tedious with a prop angel. Then the dancing girls are back in Santa costumes to dance to "Jingle Bell Rock." Then an adult violinist, but adults don't matter, adults are for edification and example, neither of which we want. But the dancing girls are back to lip-synch and prance to "All I Want for Christmas in You" and try out their new hips. One is chubby, one a stick bug, one voluptuous, one walleyed, one like Alfalfa in drag. All is in accord with tradition.

Thursday, December 23, 2004


The day off--the year off--but no sleep. Outside, workmen on scaffolding grind and scrape at our walls, breaking in by the millimeter and decibel. But Anna of Norfolk has sent Keith Jarrett to the rescue. A thousand thanks, Anna.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Doggerel in the Manger

After we three are home and warm and mama is sprawled asleep, the kid builds a shoebox nativity and the cats and I make a heap. A mother, a father, a baby, three kings, each with a place and a name, like old chess pieces set out on a board before the start of a game. When all of the parts and props are arranged to align with the incarnation, she stands and announces, "It's ready! Look!" and turns to the adoration.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Out on a morning, walking with the kid, it's cold and mossy. She takes out a toy, a new one, robot plastic bird or bat, to fly through trees. I take out the kid and set her going, see what she will do. (The other grown folk climb the slopes with dogs.)

A troop of seven boars runs single-file across the hill. We all pull up and look, the dogs, adults, the kid, the plastic bat, and let our reason for the morning pass.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka

I walk the kid across the park at night from music school, from Christmas concert practice, and watch for winter stars. I see the three magi through the trees pointing to Sirius. It's dark and cold, and she keeps up, backpacked and chattering, with news of a first kiss: a boy, a chase, a slip behind a tree, a pretended whisper. Twelve hundred years, I fall back.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

La Brea

It's quiet, the woman's out, the kid's asleep, and I am nodding over a notebook and tea, wearing fuzzy slippers. Just before I give up to sleep, I see pink pajamas disappear into the bathroom. Back to writing.

But there's the sound of a little dinosaur calling. I look up. The two cats look up. They look at me, like I might know something about this. I must be looking at them. Another little dinosaur call. Our fur is up.

I step through the bathroom door, which is open, and see a stream of pink puke fly. I look down and see a circle of pink around my fuzzy slippers. When I lift a foot, it says "gack."

After tossing my slippers aside, after the changing and toothbrushing and soothing, after tucking in on the couch, after scrubbing a mattress, after another call across the wastes, after more tucking in and soothing, after the bucket brigade, I go back to the bathroom and stand with my hands on my hips to collect myself and think what else must be done.

It's midnight and I look down and I'm standing in socks in the same pink pool.

Sunday, December 05, 2004


A large drunk man staggers out of the dark at me and asks, "Are you good?"

I don't have an answer for him and he doesn't wait for one.